Connie Crothers | Andrea Wolper | Ken Filiano | Trance Formation in Concert | NA1054

Connie Crothers, piano | Ken Filiano, bass | Andrea Wolper, voice

Recorded at the Stone, New York. September 20, 2009 and Korzo, Brooklyn. February 2, 2010. Recorded by Ben Manley. Mixed by Jim Clouse, Park West Studios, Brooklyn. Band photos by Michael Weintrob. CD Design by Mindy Mitchell.

Tracklist: 1. The Same Moon 2. When Souls Run Around in the Night 3. The Fifth Stone 4. The Things You See in New York City 5. Whale Song 6. Lines and Circles, Squared 7. Love Within a Time of Turbulence 8. Sea Island Sometimes

Music and Words 100% Improvised

Connie Crothers

improvising pianist, has been recognized by critics for her originality, virtuosity and range of musical expression. “A lioness on the keyboard” (Jean Quist) and “a stunning pianist” (Stuart Broomer) who has “forged a truly individual path in music” (Francis Lo Kee), she was included in Cadence magazine’s centennial issue list of the most important and influential musicians in the last twenty-five years of the 20th century. Connie has performed solo and with various groups (including her quartet with Richard Tabnik, Ken Filiano, and Roger Mancuso) in concerts and festivals around the world. Her discography includes the duo with Max Roach, “Swish” (New Artists); “Spontaneous Suites” (RogueArt), a four-CD box set of duos with David Arner; and numerous solo and collaborative recordings including several Connie Crothers Quartet offerings. Nine of her CDs have been chosen by critics for their list of the best records of the year. Connie is the founder and president of New Artists Records. She teaches improvisation.

Ken Filiano

performs throughout the world, playing and recording with leading artists in jazz, spontaneous improvisation, classical, world/ethnic, and interdisciplinary performance, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness. Critics have called him a “creative virtuoso,” a “master of technique” . . . “a paradigm of that type of artist. . . who can play anything in any context and make it work, simply because he puts the music first and leaves peripheral considerations behind.” An integral member of numerous ensembles, Ken also composes for his own quartet, Quantum Entanglements, (with Michael Attias, Michael T.A. Thompson, and Tony Malaby). His extensive discography includes the solo bass CD, “subvenire” (NineWinds) and his Quantum Entanglements CD, “Dreams From a Clown Car” (Clean Feed). Ken teaches bass and improvisation at his Brooklyn studio, and is on the teaching roster at The New School in New York.

Andrea Wolper

has been described as a singer with “an inventive, thrilling, appealing musical vision” (Blogcritics) who “brings songs to life, whatever their source, working in a milieu that begins with jazz and reaches out to embrace an expressive area that is uniquely her own” (International Review of Music). Mixing genres, crossing boundaries, Andrea approaches all her music with an adventurous improviser’s spirit. Her quintet CD, “Parallel Lives” (Jazzed Media) received stellar reviews upon its release in late 2011, and was included in three end-of-year critics’ lists; her 2005 release, “The Small Hours” (VarisOne.Jazz), also earned high critical praise. Andrea leads her own group, appearing in her New York home base, and touring nationally and internationally; is a member of an original music big band; and has appeared as a guest artist with numerous other jazz and improvising ensembles. She teaches vocal technique, and leads workshops for vocalists and for all musicians on using improvisation as a tool for releasing music with spontaneity and freedom. She is a former president of International Women in Jazz and was on the Advisory Board of the Jazz Vocal Coalition.


the trio of Connie Crothers (piano), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrea Wolper (voice) subverts expectation on several counts. From the first moment, this seemingly traditional piano-bass-vocal formation leaves tradition behind: there are no assumed or assigned roles; no singer “in front,” no instruments “in back,” no leader, no sideplayers. Instead, three musical “voices” join to make music cooperatively as they weave in, out, and among one another, extending, bending, and experimenting with the sonic capabilities of their respective instruments. Everything–music and words–is entirely improvised. If free improvisation frequently has been thought of as a move away from traditions (linear melody, tempos, tonal harmony, etc.), this group embraces spontaneous playing so entirely that anything is allowed to emerge, and the music, as well as the music-making process, is truly free. Collectively, the three players, all of whom are known as leaders and as participants in a wide variety of musical projects, have extensive backgrounds in jazz improvisation, classical performance, blues, theater, the avant garde, experimental and other kinds of music. When they join together in this trio, none of these musical influences is rejected. The result is music that moves easily from densely layered, to soulful, to energetic, to delicate and reflective, even to funny – a music that moves in and out of time and genre… The group welcomes the inherent mystery of the music making process: the altered, trance-like state that is the source of free and uninhibited expression; deep listening; curiosity; the depth of trust -in the self, in one another, in the music- that allows them to be in the musical moment with ears and hearts wide open. — Chris Kelsey

Andrea Wolper has a fluid voice

which she uses in an attractive low-key style, drawing subtle nuances from lyrics, and shaping vocal lines into jazz performances. For some years she has worked regularly with guitarist Ron Affif and bassist Ken Filiano and the interplay of the three on “The Small Hours” (VarisOne Jazz) makes clear that this is neither singer with band, nor band with singer, but a co-operative trio of which every member is an equal part. The extent of Andrea’s musicianship is apparent from the fact that she is also responsible for the arrangements and these are exemplary. On 2011’s “Parallel Lives” (Jazzed Media), Andrea and Ken are in collaboration with guitarist Michael Howell, pianist Kris Davis, and electronic percussionist Michael TA Thompson. This group explores new possibilities in some standards, including a gorgeous “Skylark,” touches upon songs from more recent times, among them Joni Mitchell’s “Song To A Seagull,” and also provides three eloquent examples of Andrea’s gifts as a songwriter. Clearly, this accomplished artist has much to offer those who delight in contemporary jazz singing, something that is underlined most effectively on “TranceFormation In Concert” (New Artists Records ), released October 2012. On this album, recorded live in New York, Andrea and Ken team up with pianist Connie Crothers for a scintillating demonstration of the art of improvisation. Never becoming so abstract that the audience is left behind, they stretch the expected boundaries of the vocal-bass-piano trio line-up yet remain anchored to the soul of jazz. It is an exhilarating sonic image of where jazz (and jazz singing in particular) is located today and hints at the possible routes it might take tomorrow.– Bruce Crowther


Back when I used to write for I/E and Signal to Noise

I’d occasionally be invited to review avant-garde concerts of free, experimental, and outside musics, genres I’d developed a real taste for but which I also well understood were far more precarious forms than most grasped them to be. As with any genre, there’s a good deal more mediocre music, and worse, in that field. To excel in it, one must possess a true and palpably unconstrained creativity governed only by finely honed aesthetics cybernetically attuned in ensemble that can be spontaneously unleashed. In that rare environment, I usually cite Morphogenesis (esp. the mindblowing debut), Copernicus, Circle, Jarrett’s solo improvs, Trummerflora, The Exiles (no, not the hideously commercial Kentucky group Exile, God no!), and a double handful of other estimables as exemplary. Well, now you can add this trio, Crothers, Filiano, & Wolper to the too short role call.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to locate a frontman/woman in this disc, but there is none. More than once, Connie Crothers’ tinkly, crazed, surrealistic piano demanded I laud its favor, but then Andrea Wolper outdid LaBarbera and Monk, squashing the entreaty, forcing a reconsideration as her burbling, squeeling, oral precussives, and stream-of-consciousness rants spun the cut around in its tracks, so I thought “Okay, her, that’s the one, there’s the center!”. But then I tried imagining any of the songs without Ken Filaino’s peripatetic bass and bowing, and that didn’t work either. Ahhhhhhhh, joy of joys!, I understood I’d chanced across a true trio never out of synch, alive and connected, thinking and playing on its feet in existentially fractured harmony. Rare, y’all, rare.

Like Cage’s solo piano works, I can play this stuff all the time and never get tired of it, though the neighbors just might call in those bastards in the white suits…again. Man, are those guys condescending! This time, though, I’ll be ready for ’em ’cause TranceFormation is hellishly more infectious than they’ll be able figure out until its too late. Just as they’re breaking down the front door, I’m gonna twist the volume up and just sit back as they approach, corporate-slave mouths muttering “C’mon, guy, that’s a good boy. Just stay there and…hey, where’d all the butterflies and nice colors come from? Prrrrretty! Okay, okay, just stay calm, guy, and…whoa, how come I feel like taking off all my clothes and running through streets strewing flowers and eating ice cream??? Uh…um…just sit still…and…and…hey, wouldja mind turning that up just a bit, bro, and do ya have any beers, and what the hell am I doing in this monkey suit attendant on The Man’s will anyway, hm? Isn’t this the United States of Anarchy???”

Yep, In Concert is that kinda disc, a pure heady freak-out in a jazz a-v vein for over 50 ecstatic minutes, a cascade of rapidly shifting moods, most of them Dalinian, paranoid-critical and edge-sensual but emanating from a loopily smiling lysergic genie in the skies and thus benevolent; it ain’t The Swans or Merzbow but it’s just a radical. — Mark S. Tucker

For those of us who like free improvisation

this is just what the doctor ordered. TranceFormation is a trio featuring pianist Connie Crothers, bassist Ken Filiano and scatting, vocalese master, Andrea Wolper. If the instrumentals are too abstract, check out “The Things You See In New York City”. They are fueled by each other’s energy and years of experience make them comfortable enough to explore with no fear. In a trance? Yes, in their zone that overflows to their audience with an abundance of spirit. — D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place Jazz Magazine

It takes musicians of real imagination

and ability to launch music involving 100% improvisation and have it satisfy the listener on every level. Of course with an artist of the stature of pianist-conceptualist Connie Crothers, you know you are going to get that along with her extraordinary originality and pianism. With contrabassist Ken Filiano, the same applies. I’ll admit that vocalist and prose-poetess Andrea Wolper was an unknown factor for me.

So when I opened the package that contained the three artists together on the CD TranceFormation in Concert (New Artists 1054CD) I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like.

Now that I’ve listened a bunch of times I am happy to say that the CD made a Wolper believer out of me. She improvises recitations, creates rhythmic patter that hangs together as content as well as sound pattern, and she sings and does sound color vocalisms that sound right and show a very inventive creative soul at work.

Combine Andrea with Connie and Ken, and something special results. That’s In Concert. It’s Ms. Wolpers, Ms. Crothers and Mr. Filiano at their creative best. And it shows you in the process that “jazz vocals” can be whatever they might be and be very good, without resorting to the usual standards and scatting formations so prevalent these days.

That’s the case, and on top of that you have a very wonderful three-way interaction at work here. Inspiring improvisation at its best! — Grego Applegate Edwards

CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

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MP3 version (68.19MB zip download)

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